My half-Irish pal Sophie takes pride in her Gaelic lineage, which she likes to think bequeathed her not only charm but also a nonconformist, phlegmatic outlook on life. When she suggested a bicycle tour of her “motherland” — her mother grew up in a village just south of Cork in south-west
Ireland — I immediately agreed and set about planning each day’s itinerary. My preparation was militarily fastidious: routes digitally plotted, and contingencies set in place. Sophie wasn’t impressed.

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